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Artillery Row

Decolonisation is not a metaphor

In praise of the rough honesty of the far left

“When someone shows you who they are,” said Maya Angelou, “believe them the first time”. A bit harsh perhaps. Everyone can have a bad day. But when someone outright tells you who they are, it might be sensible to pay attention.

It was appalling to see the images that came out of Israel this weekend. I am — and I promise that this will become relevant soon — no great supporter of the Israeli state. I do not think, as Penny Mordaunt has proclaimed, that “Israel’s security is our security.” Indeed, when Britain’s security was threatened by Argentina, Israel was selling weapons to the Argentines. I think that Palestinian attacks on civilians are revolting — but I know Israeli settlers are hardly blameless innocents in that respect. 

Yet one does not have to be a great friend of a nation to appreciate its suffering in the face of sheer barbarism. I choose the word “barbarism” precisely to describe the murder of unarmed civilians at a musical festival, the kidnapping of women and kids and the parading of a woman’s murdered body as a crowd chants “God is great”. If that doesn’t sound like barbarism to you, well — what does?

Yet to a lot of people it sounds like freedom fighting — and not just Palestinians but people in Berlin, and Toronto, and London. Many of them are Muslims but not all of them.

Some of the loudest voices which have been raised in celebration come from advocates of “decolonisation”. Indeed, such writers and academics have been very keen to associate the violence — violence which, as the hardly pro-Israel commentator Michael Tracey notes, was destined to provoke a furious response — with “decolonisation”. We should believe them.

what did y’all think decolonization meant?” Najma Sharif, a Somali-American writer sneered (the lower case is hers, presumably to show how cool she is while excusing murder), “vibes? papers? essays? losers.” “Decolonisation is not a metaphor,” Mahvish Ahmad, Assistant Professor in Human Rights and Politics at the London School of Economics, wrote in a now-deleted tweet, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

“Postcolonial, anticolonial, and decolonial are not just words you heard in your EDI workshop,” posted Ameil J. Joseph, Associate Professor at the School of Social Work, McMaster University. “Palestinians … are rising up against the colonizers,” wrote Tariq Ali of New Left Review. Again, just to be clear, the violence these people are describing explicitly involved the deliberate murder of civilians and the celebration of their deaths. What “colonising” tattoo artist Shani Louk had done to justify being killed and having her body displayed as some kind of grotesque trophy is beyond my comprehension.

But I do not really come here to critique these men and women. We have, in fact, quite similar frustrations with nice centrists. We’re both annoyed that they cannot comprehend the radical implications of postcolonial theory. 

When Sartre described Europeans — and I don’t think it is inaccurate to say that Israel’s critics largely consider Israelis to be honorary Europeans — as “zombies” at whose expense history was destined to be made, was that meant to be a metaphor for a somewhat more inclusive curriculum? When Fanon wrote — in, granted, a far more colonial time, but in words his advocates believe have equal resonance today — that decolonisation entails a “program of complete disorder” which defies all hopes of “friendly understanding”, he didn’t mean we should perhaps censor the title of that Joseph Conrad book. Of course the ideologues of “decolonisation” think the murder of Israeli citizens is justified. Haven’t you read them on the Haitian massacre? Come on!

Really, the far left are more intelligent and honest than the nice centrists here

Really, the far left are more intelligent and honest than the nice centrists here. I mean the sort of nice centrists who are delighted with high levels of immigration from very anti-Semitic societies but are then shocked to find anti-Semitism in Britain. The sort of nice centrists who sing Oasis songs when terrorism scars Britain but are now joining the unofficial IDF fan club.

When a philosophy has at its heart the principle that Western evildoing is what obstructs man’s path to peace and freedom, it’s hardly surprising that the means are excused for the sake of ends. The proper response is not to wring one’s hands about such moral relativism but to reject the principle.

When someone tells you who they are — and in creditably honest and explicit detail — believe them.

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